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Beavers invade the Arctic: report

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Beavers invade the Arctic: report

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North American beavers move, live and colonize much further north than ever before, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) annual Artic Report Card.

Satellite imagery shows beavers have colonized the arctic tundra of Alaska and Canada, with more than 12,000 ponds counted so far in western Alaska alone, with most areas showing a doubling of beaver ponds over the past 20 years.

The report states that aerial photography does not show any beaver ponds in this area of ​​the Alaska region until 1955.

Beaver pond mapping is underway in Canada, showing that the influx of animals is controlling the increase in surface water, which may impact the underlying permafrost.

The report says beavers are transforming the lowland tundra ecosystem as climate change and warming northern regions lead to increased vegetation productivity and the expansion of woody shrubs – prime building materials for beaver dams.

The report notes that as early as 2017, the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the Northwest Territories implemented a beaver hunting program due to concerns about increasing beaver numbers.

“The true impact of the spread of beavers in the Arctic on the environment and the indigenous communities that live there is not yet fully understood,” zoologist Helen Wheeler said in a press release. “However, we do know that people are concerned about the impact of beaver dams on water quality, the number of fish downstream of the dams and access for their boats.”

IMPLICATIONS OF CASTORS IN THE ARCTIC

Beavers are known to dramatically change the landscapes they inhabit, as their dams can inundate the surrounding landscape and severely alter water flow.

“It is still unclear how these impacts will manifest in the Arctic, where low water temperatures inhibit the productivity and biodiversity of rivers, and where permafrost maintains much of the soil,” said the report.

Satellite imagery shows that beaver dams are the dominant factor in controlling increases in surface water in northwestern Alaska.

The permafrost thaw associated with the new beaver ponds would initially release carbon and methane stored in the permafrost, but the report says the true magnitude of this impact is unknown.

“Whether their northward expansion is entirely due to climate change or increased populations following historic reductions in beaver trapping for fur and food, or a combination of the two, is not entirely clear. clear, but we know beavers have a significant impact on the ecosystems they colonize, ”Wheeler said in the release.

In 2020, the Arctic Beaver Observation Network was formed from groups across Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia to track rodents and study their influence on the northern environment.

Researchers say their next steps are to further study and map beavers in arctic regions of Canada.


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